Pinpointing exactly why people post on social media is an impossible exercise; however, by understanding some significant social media behaviors, it becomes easier to grasp general motivations for posting.
A recent Medium article titled “The Psychology of Social Sharing” helped articulate the different tiers of posting motivations.
While the writers of this article approached the psychology of posting on social media from a marketing perspective, they tapped into clear psychological incentives for sharing content.
They even cleverly adapt noted psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs to reasons why people post and consume updates. They are:
- Physiological needs: People sometimes post to benefit the health or well-being of their friends and family.
- Safety: Physical, mental, and financial security are important for people when they choose to post some material on their social media.
- Love/belonging: Users generally want to post to feel some kind of social acceptance from a group or a particular individual.
- Esteem: People want to quell the rewards-oriented parts of their brains, which helps explain why people post “me-centric” content regularly.
- Self-actualization: As the most important facet of the human needs hierarchy, this aspect of social media posting manifests when people share their successes – getting a new job, completing an arduous project, or graduating from school, to name a few examples.
The psychological world has only recently begun to confront the motivations for posting material on social media.
An article titled “Why We Share: A Study of Motivations for Mobile Media Sharing” posed an actual experiment where respondents were asked to record their posting habits and corresponding feelings in a diary and then participate in post-study interviews.
After monitoring the media sharing behavior, the researchers found “that social and emotional influences played an important role in media sharing behavior.”
Some researchers have looked toward the ways social media has affected the psychological development in children.
The article “Growing Up Wired: Social Networking Sites and Adolescent Psychosocial Development” stated that some reasons people share is because they have been reared since childhood to post.
The researchers said: Overall, adolescents and young adults’ stated motivations for using (social networking sites) are quite similar to more traditional forms of communication – to stay in touch with friends, make plans, get to know people better, and present oneself to others.
Moreover, the researchers in the study explained that children and adolescents are beginning to have their identities shaped by posting on and engaging with social media.
One reason people post on social media, according to an article in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, is because social media sharing can link to positive social media feedback and self-esteem.
More directly, the quest for likes or follows on social media heavily influences why people post.
The positive attention some users receive for posting inspires more and more social sharing in many users.
In sum, people generally post from some kind of emotional position that seeks a response.
Since the very nature of social media centers on communication, it makes sense that the primary motivation for posting comes from a psychological point to connect with others.
But this constant quest for acceptance and exposure on social media can lead to major psychological problems for some.
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